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J. Kevin Mccarthy, and Susan J. Mccarthy v. Hamilton Farm Golf Club

May 9, 2011

J. KEVIN MCCARTHY, AND SUSAN J. MCCARTHY,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
HAMILTON FARM GOLF CLUB, LLC; HAMILTON FARM SOCIAL CLUB, INC.; TED KOHLER; MICHAELEEN GRAHAM; XYZ CORPORATION 1-5; AND JOHN DOES 1-5, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thompson, U.S.D.J.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter has come before the Court upon the Motion to Remand filed by Plaintiffs J. Kevin McCarthy and Susan J. McCarthy [docket # 6]. Defendant Hamilton Farm Golf Club, LLC opposes the motion [12]. The Court has decided the motion upon the submissions of the parties and without oral argument, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the reasons stated below, the Plaintiffs' motion is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of Defendants Hamilton Farm Golf Club, LLC ("HFGC") and Hamilton Farm Social Club, Inc.'s ("HFSC") refusal to refund Plaintiffs' $275,000 membership deposit after the Plaintiffs' resignation from the Defendants' golf club. Plaintiffs joined the club pursuant to a written agreement that provided for the payment of a $275,000 membership deposit.

The parties' written agreement stated,

A member who resigns from the Club prior to the Maturity Date, will be repaid the Membership Deposit paid by the member or the amount of the membership deposit then charged by the Club for a Family Golf Membership, whichever is less, without interest, within 30 days after the membership has been reissued by the Club to a new member in accordance with the reissuance provisions of the Membership Plan referred to below.

(Compl. ¶ 8) [6-1]. That is, members who resign get a refund of their membership deposit within 30 days of their spot being filled by a new member. Plaintiffs allege that Club representatives Ted Kohler and Michaeleen Graham induced them to join the Club by stating that "memberships in the Club were growing rapidly and filling up fast, thus reassuring Plaintiffs that there was a high likelihood that they would be able to obtain an immediate and full refund of their membership deposit in the event they resigned from the Club." (Id. at ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs paid the Defendants the $275,000 deposit as required, but subsequently resigned from the Club in 2006 due to a job transfer. (Id. at ¶ 11--12.) Plaintiffs were placed on a waiting list but, despite additional members joining the club, Defendants have refused to refund Plaintiffs' membership deposit. (Id. at ¶ 13--16.)

Plaintiffs filed a Complaint on February 10, 2011, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Somerset County, against HFGC, HFSC, Kohler, Graham, and XYZ Corporations 1-5 and John Does 1-5, alleging causes of action for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, fraudulent misrepresentation, violation of New Jersey Blue Sky Law, equitable estoppel, unjust enrichment, and constructive trust. (See Baldinger, Esq., CertificationEx. A, Complaint and Demand for Jury) [6-1]. Defendant HFGC removed the action to this Court on March 21, 2011 [1]. HFGC's Petition for Removal stated that Defendant Graham, a citizen of New Jersey, had consented to removal, and that the remaining Defendants had not been served or were improperly joined. (Petition for Removal ¶ 4--7 ) [1]. Plaintiffs filed the present Motion to Remand on April 8, 2011 [6].*fn1

III. ANALYSIS

A.The "Forum-Defendant Rule" Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)

A case removed from state court must be remanded if, at any time before final judgment, the district court finds that it "lacks subject matter jurisdiction" to hear the case. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The defendant, as the removing party asserting jurisdiction, bears the burden of showing that the case is properly in federal court. See Frederico v. Home Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 193 (3d Cir. 2007). "[R]emoval statutes are to be strictly construed against removal and all doubts should be resolved in favor of remand." In re Briscoe, 448 F.3d 201, 217 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting Batoff v. State Farm Ins. Co., 977 F.2d 848, 851 (3d Cir. 1992)).

Where the district court's jurisdiction is predicated on the parties' diversity of citizenship, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332, removal is permissible "only if none of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the State in which such action is brought." 28 U.S.C. 1441(b); see also Lincoln Prop. Co. v. Roche, 546 U.S. 81, 84 (2005) (stating that "[d]efendants may remove an action on the basis of diversity of citizenship if there is complete diversity between all named plaintiffs and all named defendants, and no defendant is a citizen of the forum State"). This requirement, known as the "forum-defendant rule," means that if an action brought in New Jersey state court is removed under ยง 1332, and one of the defendants is a New Jersey citizen, then ...


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